Answers to 7 Questions Brands Are Asking About Twitter

If big brands are asking these questions, chances are so are you. Jeremiah Owyang, Web Strategist at Forrester Research has posted a short list on his blog titled, 7 Questions Some Brands Are Asking About Twitter. While I question his ability to count (there are closer to 10 questions in his list…) I thought it would be valuable to answer questions based on my experience working with clients at Giant Ant Media, on Twitter and Social Media Strategy. Here it goes.

7 Questions Some Brands are Asking About Twitter

1) Should we create multiple accounts for different divisions? How should we name them?  How should the content be different?

While this will vary wildly from company to company based on organization structure and product offering I do have a few thoughts. First, I think the biggest opportunity for companies to leverage twitter is found with their employees. Employees represent the first line of fans or advocates of a brand, they’re real people with real connections and are (hopefully) able to have real person to person interactions.

Tony Hsieh and team at Zappos is the perfect example. The majority of Zappos employees are on Twitter and the vast majority of tweets they send don’t revolve around shoes or the Zappos brand. Have a look at what they’re tweeting about now.

So how does Zappos see value? They get access to a valuable friend to friend relationship. Sure it’s not accessible by corporate communications on a whim, as it shouldn’t be. Zappos employees will tweet about company info, events or products when it makes sense to them, making those interaction vastly more valuable than any scripted or controlled message.

Focus on empowering people to be active online.

2) Is it ok to just tweet out news on our main corporate account? Or should we be conversational?

Yes!

3) How do we get our corporate reps (sales, product teams) to use this tool, and be conversational?

Great idea! My suggestion is to set them up with personal accounts and encourage them to connect and interact with each other as ‘people’ first and sales or reps second. People (who just may be potential clients) don’t want to connect with companies or sales reps, they want to connect with people and that’s exactly the benefit Twitter offers both companies and users.

Beyond encouraging employees to set up accounts, training and coaching programs can be a great way to further the use of the medium and ensure that users see value for their investment of time. Coaching programs usually include a focus on how to interact, how to grow a following and provide an encouraging and connecting force to really ramp up the value of their Twitter usage.

4) Should we follow folks? If so, what’s the protocol? Should we only follow folks that follow us? We don’t want to appear like ‘big brother’

One thing companies need to get their head around is that people want to connect online, as long as they see value. Seth Godin put it best when he described Twitter as One Big Cocktail Party. By following someone you are essentially shaking their hand and saying hello. That person then has the option of following you back, or not.

I recommend actively searching for people that are interested in similar things as you.  If you’re a wine retailer, search “wine” or “best Chardonnay” or “Zinfandel” on search.twitter.com and follow people that are talking about those terms. Even better, search for and answer their questions, provide encouragement or offer them value some other way (like special deals!). Just don’t go out and follow hundreds or thousands of people right off the bat, you’ll look like a spammer (and essentially are) so don’t.

Focus on offering value to your followers and watch those relationships grow.

5) What are the tools to use to manage multiple authors/tweeters?

I recommend using HootSuite for multiple authors/editors. Hootsuite provides other great features such as scheduled tweets, built in metrics and a rich search feature. One drawback is that the current URL shortening service, ow.ly, uses an Digg Bar-esque iFrame tool bar that slows page load times and may annoy some users. I have, however, been told by it’s developer (Invoke) that an option to remove the tool bar will be coming soon. Here’s to hoping!

Another tool I like to use is Tweetdeck. Though it doesn’t allow for multiple authors, it does have a multiple columns structure that can be used to provide a Heads Up Display of sorts. You can run near-real time searches on multiple key words and trends, making it valuable for users to keep their finger on the pulse of a given conversation.

6) How can we find other examples of B2B twitter examples?

You can find good lists here , here and here.

7) How should we brand our Twitter backgrounds images?

The most valuable real estate on your twitter profile is you 160 character bio, user name and a link to more info about you or your company. Beyond that, you have the option of uploading a background image to be displayed behind your update feed. The Twitter background is a great branding opportunity. Check out what Tree Hugger, a leading environmental website has done with theirs.  Zappos Tony uses it to show his face and provide viewers with other ways to connect with the company. I just use it to show off my manly features.

Rule of thumb: When in doubt, keep it simple. Simple!

More Twitter Help: Find Twitter Followers and Build an Audience with These Applications

So there we go, some answers to Twitter questions that you may or may not have know you had. Did I miss someting? Get somethign something wrong? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

or hit me up on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/thattallguy

Update: Check out Antonio’s answers: B2B Twitter and Sampad’s Indian Perspective on them

{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Accidentally come here , I am incomparable to enjoy myself when i appreciate your beautiful article from my deep heart!

  • I've heard good things about Seesmic, it has a lot of features. Thanks for the recommendations!

  • Thank you for these fabulous answers.
    Personally, I'm using Seesmic Desktop's grouping feature that helps in managing individuals I'm following; also, I agree on getting a personalized Twitter background is essential. I've got mine set up using FreeTwitterDesigner. Works perfectly well.

    @wchingya
    social media/blogging

  • Hi Jess,

    These are great answers to this post. Regarding Question #5, I would add Co-Tweet (http://www.cotweet.com/) as a good way to have multiple editors and authors for 1 Twitter account or many. Scheduling Tweets is available through them, I find it very useful.

    Thanks,
    Alexis N. Karlin
    http://www.twitter.com/akarlin

  • Ha, I don't blame you. ;) Thanks pointing out a rather unfortunate error!

    Definitely an imortant issue. I think that the difference is getting a lot less clear, and I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

    Being yourself as an employee, executive or owner is a positive aspect of social media. The internet is enabling individuals and companies to build brands, reputations, relationships and shared experiences based on personal business relationships.

    Sure there are companies that will need a clear definition, I don't think I'll ever have a positive relationship with my cell phone provider, but for the majority of businesses being personal is a huge advantage.

  • Yes, in fact, you did get 'somethign' wrong;-)

    Sorry could not resist.

    Also wanted to mention something about boundary issues regarding personal and business accounts....just to be aware that they should exist. Can be difficult in such a social, conversational environment.

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